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Hands Across the Water: Emirates A380 to Perth

The time spent in Hamburg had been worthwhile and now I was on the way home. In the previous report, I covered the first sector of the journey – Hamburg to Dubai on a Boeing 777-300ER. This final report in the current series describes the connecting flight – Dubai to Perth on an Airbus A380.

The bus, carrying the lady of the 2nd Light Horse Battalion and her family, arrived at the transfer terminal. They courteously invited me to leave the bus first, wishing me a pleasant onward flight.

Several other buses had arrived from remote stands and queues were forming at security. However, off to the left stood a young woman in Emirates airline uniform, calling passengers with Fast Track cards. I was through in no time.

Although I went to the First Class Lounge in Concourse B, I took no photos. When approached by a member of the staff, I requested some water and a cup of black coffee. The onward connection would depart from gate B13 so when the time came, boarding would be direct from the Lounge level.

When boarding was called, about twenty passengers formed a queue to have their passports, boarding passes and carry-on bags checked. Then I was invited into the lift for First Class and sent down to level two. The lift door opened directly onto the airbridge connecting to the aircraft. As usual, a cheerful "welcome back, Mr Smith" and a crew member showed the way to the suite.

A quick check of the suite showed plenty of storage space. Behind the pop-up bar is a long, narrow space where one might place a rolled-up artwork, technical drawings or an umbrella. To the side, a handy box where one can place items like cameras, journals and similar small items.

The now familiar routine of pyjamas and slippers being brought, newspapers and magazines being offered and appointments for the shower spa being made was run through. And the unmissable Arabic coffee and dates. Each year, some 315,000 bateel dates from the UAE are consumed by Emirates passengers. "Please, take some more if you like."

For some reason, the cabin lights were dimmed. Normally a prior announcement would be made but so far ...

Let's have a look at what's on Today's Flight. The wide screen is also a touch screen but one can use the wireless remote to navigate one's way through choices of news and information; music, films and television; or updates about the flight one is on.

The flight map showed the aircraft's position at Concourse B. Switching to the tail camera provided a view of the terminal building over the top of the plane. A vehicle parked in front of the terminal showed up on the forward camera.

The Captain came over the speakers, saying that due to air space congestion there was a delay and he expected us to push back in twenty minutes. He also told us that his colleague Neil would be flying the aircraft into Perth. Outside, ground staff were working around a neighbouring Boeing. But some activity appeared to be occurring around the Airbus too.

The cabin was still in semi darkness, the time dragged on. More than twenty minutes had passed and I suspected something else might be happening. A technical problem, maybe.

The purser used the time to introduce himself and bring this morning's menu and wine list. An offer to bring a fresh drink was made so I asked for some more orange juice.

The Captain addressed the cabin once more. It seems that they had been allocated a departure time but a passenger had been taken ill and needed to be off-loaded. Their luggage would also need to be taken off so there would be a further delay, for which he apologised. I used the time to leaf through the August edition of Open Skies. It featured an interesting article on community farming and food production in Melbourne.

Finally, the usual commands to ground personnel to leave and cabin crew to arm doors and cross check were made. The safety video was played. After a delay of one hour and forty-one minutes, the Airbus A380 pushed back.

Flight: Emirates EK420 DXB - PER
Aircraft Type: A38-800 | Seat: 02K
Aircraft ID: A6-EEV
STD: 02:45 | ATD: 04:26
STA: 17:35 | ATA: 19:08

This morning's flight was aboard A6-EEV, an Airbus A380-861 configured F14 C76 Y401 and powered by four GP7270 engines. It first flew in December, 2013 with test registration F-WWSA. On delivery on 19 May, 2014, it did not fly direct to Dubai but stopped over in Berlin Schönefeld. There it appeared at the ILA14 Air Show before continuing to Dubai on the 26 May.

A long taxi followed as Neil followed the assigned path to the hold position off the runway – M14A. Against the terminals, I could make out a number of other A380s. Echo Victor pulled in alongside a Boeing but obviously had a higher priority.

The Airbus waited for another movement before entering the runway. Increased thrust as the aircraft propelled forward, chewing up the asphalt before lifting into the night sky. Despite understanding the physics of it all, it never ceases to impress me that something so large can actually get off the ground.

As the view receded and the Airbus gained altitude, passing over Oman, a series of advertisements appeared on the remote. Passengers were advised of the availability of Wi-Fi, invited to peruse the duty-free selection, donate to the Emirates Foundation, and (a bit late for those this flight) go on a desert adventure.

Once the seat belt signs had been extinguished, a stewardess came to ask if I would like anything to eat or drink. At this stage, I was feeling a bit tired so I just asked for some water and a nightcap before lying down. The stewardess offered to make up the bed while I visited the loo.

During the night, or rather morning, it proved bumpy at times, particularly as Echo Victor passed to the south of Male, over the Equator and the Chagos Trench.

Some hours later, feeling a bit peckish, I had a look through the menu before using the call button. The Mains didn't really appeal and, despite my love of cheese, something else beckoned – the traditional Arabic mezze. This is the ideal meal as it allows you to graze and take time, breaking off every now and then, if you wish. The steward asked whether I would like some wine to accompany the meal.

Across its network, Emirates serves sixty-five champagnes, wines and port each day. There are also twelve cocktails and a range of forty-three spirits. Emirates has its own cellar in Burgundy, where some 3.8 million bottles of wine are stored, some of which will only be ready for drinking in 2027. Fifty-two per cent of wines and champagnes are consumed in Economy and forty-one per cent in Business Class. I would obviously have to contribute to the seven per cent served in First. 😉

Scanning the list of wines and recognising the Two Hands Lily's Garden Shiraz from the outbound flight, I chose it. The bottle was brought and a glass poured, oddly without offering the usual taster. Perhaps my asking for a photo had thrown the steward out of routine, perhaps it was the return of some turbulence.

A little later, the table was laid and the prepared mezze were brought out. It all looked very inviting and there was plentiful bread to go with it. The steward also handed over some water. Bon Appetit!

By now most other passengers in the cabin were active. Window blinds were being opened to let natural light into the cabin. The GP7270 engines were propelling the flight above thin bands of clouds, over an ocean named Indian.

One of the attendants interrupted my reverie to ask whether I was ready to use the shower spa. Grabbing my things, I made the way forward to the spacious area. A question whether I was familiar with the facilities before a quick reminder to sit down and hold onto the safety rail in the event of turbulence.

Returning to the suite, I found the usual plate of fruit and a fresh glass of water. The stewardess came by and asked if she could bring me some breakfast. An espresso doppio would be welcome. This appeared promptly, together with the ubiquitous Godiva chocolates. While enjoying the double fix, I tried out the Wi-Fi internet to catch up on email and Facebook.

Our progress was shown on screen. Travelling at about flight level three-nine-zero, we were a little over a thousand miles from our destination. The virtual gauges gave details of pitch and roll, heading and air speed. We didn't appear to be making much time after the delayed start.

Below us, the clouds had thickened and formed a fluffy blanket. The virtual cabin and head-up display continued to bring information about where we were and the estimated time of arrival. Another friendly enquiry at the suite door.

The carefully nursed Hennessy Paradis added to the mood as the sun sank behind us, changing the colours in the cloud and sky. White became grey, then orange and purple, until, all at once, we were flying through darkness.

Now that the view through the window had gone, a virtual view through the window appeared. The Captain announced that we were about to commence descent into Perth and, ATC permitting, hoped to have us on the ground a little after seven in the evening. The moving map showed our approach would be from the north.

The cabin crew cleared away the glasses, collected any rubbish and retrieved the in-flight menus. Announcements were made about seat belts and Australia's strong quarantine laws. Passengers had been given arrival cards and these should be correctly and truthfully completed. The importation of prohibited items and a false declaration carried heavy fines.

The lights of the northern suburbs came into view. However much I like travel, this is a moment that I look forward to. (Even if it is the wrong airline) I could almost hear Peter Allen singing:
"But no matter how far or wide I roam ...
I still call Australia home."

Brings a tear to your eyes. 😉

Passing over Guildford and the Kalamunda Road, Echo Victor aligned with Runway 21 on final approach. Soon we were down, slowing and taxiing to the International Terminal. On stands at Terminal 2 were Saab aircraft from Rex, an A320 disgorging passengers, and some Fokkers with Alliance.

Turning past Terminal 1 Domestic brought some Virgin Australia metal into view, while at the International Terminal the Silver Fern of Air New Zealand stood out.

The flight had made up almost no time en route and landed in Perth just after 19:00 to arrive at the gate at 19:08, one hour and thirty-three minutes behind the scheduled 17:35. Despite that, it had been pleasant enough. As usual, the crew had been proactive and nothing was too much to ask.

There was no driver when I emerged from Border Protection. One of the others got on the phone to see where he was and said that he should be here in a few minutes. With the flight delay, the drivers who would normally pick up incoming passengers to drop off had needed to pick up departing passengers first. As a result, some were a bit late for the arranged pick-ups.

A reasonable explanation and the wait was brief. Soon I was on my way home. Ah, home.